Can you picture it? Flight attendants and pilots sitting around a hotel bar after a long duty day. The conversation turns to masks. It also turns ugly. One feels strongly masks are the ineffective facial diapers of the weak while the other is adamant that they work and that mask guidelines should be respected. The result? The police are called and a pilot faces potential assault charges.
Southwest Pilots Accused Of Assault After Heated Debate Over Masks With Flight Attendant In A California Hotel Bar
Dawn Gilbertson put the pieces of the puzzle together, as Southwest Airlines and the unions representing pilots and flight attendants have declined to even offer background information on what happened beyond confirming a “crew disagreement during an overnight trip” took place.
But we do know that an incident occurred at a hotel bar in San Jose, California on Monday, October 18th. The San Jose Police Department was called, a report filed, and the matter has been referred to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for further action.
That same week, Southwest issued a memo to employees, including all pilots and flight attendants, about civility. It warned:
“Crossing the line in a heated conversation can be a violation of our guidelines for employees and can even end in loss of job.”
The memo, written by Bob Waltz, Southwest’s Vice President of Flight Operations and Sonya Lacore, Vice President of Inflight Operations, emphasized that in a very divisive time, the opinions of others must be respected:
“We realize there has been a steady drumbeat over the last 19 months about civility and respectful discourse – and that is for good reason. Many of our people have been faced with an uncomfortable situation where their beliefs are not shared by someone else, resulting in a confrontation of some kind.
And for every situation we hear about, there are dozens more for which we don’t. It is vital that we treat everyone with respect and honor our differences without pushing our ideals on someone else.”
In perhaps a further clue as to how the disagreement started, the memo stated that employees must wear masks, including during pre-flight safety briefings.
The heart of the memo, however, was a plea for employees to abide by the Golden Rule:
“And when the day is done and we retire for the day/evening, it is especially important that we measure our discussions when they veer toward sensitive topics that elicit emotional responses. Being off-duty is never an excuse to ignore the Golden Rule. Everyone has a different story before coming to work, and many times the best support we have is one another.”
The Golden Rule is important, but great discernment is even more important, and to me (for better or for worse) that means not debating masks (or vaccines, or the 2020 election) with anyone. Minds are made up and I’ve long given up trying to argue my point. So I just keep my mouth shut. Silence is golden.
A Southwest Airlines pilot faces potential charges for assault in an incident involving masks with a flight attendant. Whatever your views on masks, I find it best to keep them to yourselves.
image: Southwest Airlines